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MASS EPISCOPAL ORDINATION BY CHINA'S CATHOLIC PATRIOTIC ASSOCIATION
Coincides with John Paul II's Consecration of 12 New Bishops
BEIJING, JAN 6 (ZENIT).- On the same day that John Paul II ordained 12 new bishops, the Chinese Catholics' Patriotic Association held ordinations for five of their own bishops, not subject to the Holy Father. "Misna" reports that ''the Chinese government, which is once again forcing its desire for absolute control on to Catholics, is certainly behind the ordination decision.'' The move is sure to damage the advances that have been made recently in the work to establish diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Mainland China.
Nine other candidates for the episcopacy had been named for today's ordinations, but all of these declined, reporting reasons ranging from sickness to "problems" with the decision to ordain on that date. Since these nine refusals brought the initial number down to three, the Patriotic Association quickly sought out two more candidates to beef up the numbers. The new bishops will serve the Shanshi, Fujian, Baoding, and Nanjing provinces.
On January 4, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican's Press Office, criticized Beijing's decision, expressing "surprise" and "disappointment," and stating that "this gesture will raise obstacles that certainly hinder the process" of normalization of relations between the Vatican and China.
Navarro-Valls added that the ordinations would increase the distance between the country's political leadership and the Patriotic Association. Over the past few years, many bishops and priests of the Association have worked to rebuild their relationship with the Universal Church in Rome. The letter sent by the Holy Father to all Chinese faithful for the Holy Year was very well received by the Chinese Church. Churchmen in Nantang told "Fides" that they were moved by the Pope's affection.
A group of Patriotic priests criticized the Religious Affairs Bureau for proceeding with the ordination of new bishops without the Vatican's consent. This puts "the Chinese Church in a dangerous situation of schism," they said. The ordination of the new bishops proves that the Official Church is not free, according to a Beijing priest who continues to be faithful to the papacy and disapproves of today's ordinations.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhu Bangzao, declined direct comment to the "Washington Post" on the ordinations but stated, ''We believe that no country, including the Vatican, can interfere in China's internal affairs, including through religious means,'' said a spokesman, Zhu Bangzao. ZE00010622
January 7-9, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 4
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